The UNHCR has been active on the issue of immigration detention for some time.
However,recently the UNHCR has given increasing weight to the problem of immigration detentionand particularly alternatives to the detention of refugees and asylum seekers. The issue of immigration detention featured significantly for the first time in the 2010 ExCom meetingsand the work of the IDC was also mentioned in ExCom’s 2010 Note on InternationalProtection. The Note states that to ‘address unjustified detention, UNHCR advocatesstrongly for the use of effective alternatives to detention’ and refers to a study conducted bythe IDC to illustrate the positive results of particular alternative policies.
In 2008, 2009 and 2010 the IDC helped to run side meetings during the annual NGOconsultations on the topics of ‘Detention monitoring and human rights mechanisms’ and‘Alternatives to immigration detention.’ In addition, at the 2009 ExCom, UNHCR and the IDCheld a side meeting on alternatives to detention, attended by 30 governments. At the sidemeeting Ms. Erika Feller, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, noted that althoughalternatives to detention have been discussed within the UNHCR for many years, thediscussion has led to few concrete suggestions.
She therefore announced that
the issue of detention would be given priority over the next year.
The UNHCR does appear to have given priority to the issue of immigration detention duringthe last year. In April this year the UNHCR held its first regional roundtable on detentionalternatives in East Asia. The UNHCR also committed to further revising its 1999 Guidelineson the Detention of Asylum Seekers, and in early 2011, the UNHCR plans to launch a studyon alternatives to the detention of asylum seekers.
The UNHCR is also planning to hold aglobal ‘Alternatives to Detention’ roundtable.
Hopefully the UNHCR will continue to build onthis momentum and will use the revised guidelines and research to advocate more stronglyfor alternatives to detention to be implemented.
3. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
The OHCHR is a United Nations agency that works to promote and protect human rights. Itwas established by the UN General Assembly in 1993. The office is headed by the HighCommissioner for Human Rights, who co-ordinates human rights activities throughout theUN System and supervises the Human Rights Council. The current High Commissioner isSouth African lawyer Navanethem Pillay.In September 2009, the UN High Commissioner remarked that the plight of ‘migrants, andparticularly migrants in an irregular situation, is one of today’s most critical human rightschallenges...Promoting a human rights-based approach to migration will be one of the
For example for conclusions relating to detention dating back to 1977 see UNHCR,
A Thematic Compilation Of ExecutiveCommittee Conclusions
, 4th edition, August 2009,
p. 136,http://www.unhcr.org/3d4ab3ff2.pdf viewed 6
Note on international protection
sess, 30 June 2010, para 40,http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/pdfid/4caaeabe2.pdf
viewed 6th September.